Terence Blacker: Government advice by text? V gd idea

Share
Related Topics

Your partner in life is having an affair. Your children ignore you. The last time you went to a parents' evening, your son's teacher had difficulty remembering who he was. Your friends have discovered that misery can be catching and avoid your company. Your cat looks at you with undisguised contempt.

But all is not lost. Soon you will be able to send a text to Ed Balls, the Government's secretary of state for relationships, and expect an instant hi-tech response from a caring agency. There, on the little screen of your mobile, will be advice about sex, marriage or parenting. "eat fmly meals 2gether + no nagging bout hmewrk!", it might say, or "Sx isnt everything! Humours gr8 bt NOT whn shes undrssing!!"

The idea behind the Government's new scheme, which is called Parent Know How and will cost £44m, is that many of those who are floundering in their private lives are too busy, embarrassed or simply hooked up to their computers, to do anything about it. People get football scores through their mobiles, says Ed Balls, so why not the news of how their child is getting on at school or information about their relationship?

Fathers, who are particularly bad at getting help with all that tricky domestic stuff, might well be the target of government advice and tips, through instant messaging and texting, from the minute their child is born. At the moment, according to one of those rather odd government surveys, 63 per cent of men receive information online.

Under the scheme, schools will be able to get in touch with parents through their computers and mobiles. As for the more intimate problems, instant advice will be available from a specialist agency, like Relate.

At first glance, it is a faintly shocking development: the Government will be interfering with the private lives of citizens who, for their part, will be communicating, in mad, staccato computerese, about the most complex and painful of their problems.

Yet there is much to be said for Parent Know How scheme. To admit that for many adults, those ghastly parents' evenings have become outmoded – less than a fifth of parents think it is the most useful way to communicate with a school – is rather daring. To say, as Balls has, that it is difficult to juggle work, childcare and quality family time risks a hurricane of whinge from traditionalists, and probably teachers, but it's a point worth making.

It is something of a breakthrough for the Government to admit that the best contact with a school may be an informal chat with a teacher in a playground, rather than the shambolic, anxiety-inducing parents' evening. Texts and instant messages may not be the preferred method of communication of carers, but at least they have a chance of getting through to parents.

Of course, there are snags to the new approach. Those parents' evenings, one suspects, are as much about keeping an eye on parents as reporting the progress of children. Nagging fathers by text may well be counter-productive in some cases.

But, as with the rather sensible idea of including children in the interviewing process of new teachers, the initiative suggests that the Government is thinking radically about families and education. For all the protests, there is something encouraging about a minister who is prepared to question the formal and traditional way of doing things.

Behind these schemes lies the belief that, treated right, parents can behave like grown-ups and children can be responsible. It is a brave and novel idea and, who knows, it might even work.

Not so modest after all

The soon-to-be-royal Canadian, Autumn Kelly, must be confused. She had been going out with the Englishman Peter Phillips for six weeks before she discovered, while watching a TV documentary, that her boyfriend was the son of Princess Anne and 11th in line to the throne. But then Phillips's modesty vanished like the morning mist.

The couple will be married tomorrow at a wedding sponsored to the tune of £500,000 by Hello! magazine, which will devote 19 pages to what it calls "the ultra private pair".

Not any more. Ordinary he may be but, by taking the Hello! shilling, Phillips has earned a place for himself and Autumn in the grim outer suburbs of Celebrityville reserved for minor royals.

20 years of Hello!, Extra

* Few countries in the world are in quite such a muddle about patriotism as the British. Pride in one's country is commendable, goes the official line, but, taken too far, can tip into xenophobia or nationalism. So it was brave of the Immigration minister, Liam Byrne, while announcing a plan to make skilled workers from countries outside the EU learn English before they can work here, to invoke Britishness.

Asked about footballers from Africa and South America, Byrne admitted that the Government had considered waiving the rules for these important members of the community, before deciding that it would be "un-British" to do so. Presumably what he meant was that it would be unfair to expect foreigners to play football without appreciating the rich vocabulary that is part of it, notably during discussions with the referee and in chants from the crowd.

Now they will be able to understand the full verbal beauty of our national game. It makes you proud to be British.

terblacker@aol.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
George Osborne appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, 5 July 2015  

George Osborne says benefits should be capped at £20,000 to meet average earnings – but working families take home £31,500

Ellie Mae O'Hagan
The BBC has agreed to fund the £650m annual cost of providing free television licences for the over-75s  

Osborne’s assault on the BBC is doing Murdoch’s dirty work

James Cusick James Cusick
Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high